With more species than all plants and vertebrates put together, fungi occur right across the globe. They provide essential ecosystem services which support animals and plants. Fungi have a symbiotic relationship with 80% of all plants, meaning that both fungi and plants benefit from living in close proximity to each other. Fungi also recycle plant and animal waste into useful products.
Fungi are extremely important to humans. The antibiotic Penicillin was derived from the fungus Penicillium and its discovery revolutionized medical treatment. Indeed most antibiotics and statins are fungal in origin. Fungi are also needed to make bread, beer, wine, cheese and many other foods. The ecological and economic importance of fungi is huge and the conservation of this group is essential to the maintenance of healthy ecosystems and our quality of life.
Many fungi species are threatened by habitat loss, loss of symbiotic hosts, pollution, overexploitation, and climate change, but the vast majority of fungal species have not yet been assessed for The IUCN Red List. The Global Fungal Red List Initiative aims to facilitate and coordinate a concerted effort by the global mycological community to get at least 300 species of threatened fungi assessed and classified.